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Russians plan asteroid shield

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Russia will complete a plan for a program to protect the planet against threats from space by the end of this year, said Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Moscow's space agency, Roscosmos.

The agency has "formed an interdepartmental working party together with the Russian Defense Ministry and the Russian Academy of Sciences to elaborate proposals with regard to [a] unified system [for] prevention and deterrence of threats coming from the outer space," Mr. Popovkin told a parliamentary round table Tuesday, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

The three agencies, along with the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry, were planning to create a center to coordinate efforts and combine resources.

"The country has enough money but it is divided between departmental programs," Mr. Popovkin said.

Work on the project began last month after an meteor more than 50 feet across and weighing 11,000 tons smashed into Russia near the town of Chelyabinsk, breaking windows for miles around and injuring 1,500 people, two of the them seriously.

"The primary task is to develop and improve systems for tracking and detecting small celestial bodies and space garbage," Mr. Popovkin added, according to The Voice of Russia radio. "After that, it is necessary to create and to test means of influence on potentially dangerous celestial bodies and space objects. This implies planning of exploration missions to asteroids and comets in order to pinpoint their size and orbit trajectory, mastering maneuvers of space vehicles around these celestial bodies as well as methods of changing the trajectory of these bodies," the station reported him as saying.

Russian experts propose to deploy an asteroid tracking system near the moon, Voice of Russia said.

Vitaly Lapota, president of the Energia space corporation, told the station that the tracking system would require three observatories in a special 248,000-mile-high orbit between the Earth and moon, where they would be stationary with regard to both bodies.

"There are Lagrangian points near the moon where a space vehicle can stay unmovable with respect to the Earth and the moon," he said.

"But our country won't be able to implement this project on its own — this requires international cooperation," Mr. Lapota added.

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